Dream IT Project:

Since I have been teaching I have noticed a lack of intrinsic motivation in many of my students. This is not something that we should be seeing in grades as early as 2nd grade! After learning about something called “Genius Hour” I’m curious to see if implementing this in a classroom would help increase student motivation.


Pictured by N.N. Light available under CC by 2.0

I would like to see if integrating Genius Hour or 20% time in a classroom setting will foster Self-Determination Theory (autonomy, relatedness, competence) and therefore increase students’ motivation to learn. Check out the recent proposal I have written !

Classroom Tour via Learning Theories

Below you will find a variety of photos under three different Learning Theories: Cognitivism, Behaviorism, and Social learning. Each picture will also have an explanation of how it was used in a classroom setting. Though I am not currently teaching in a classroom, all of the examples provided were used within the four years I have taught so far.


whole brain rules

One method that you would find me using throughout my classroom is called “Whole Brain Teaching”. Whole Brain Teaching uses a lot of call/response and gestures in order to help students remember information. Not only are these rules posted, but the rules are repeated as a class at least once a day along with the hand gestures that go with each one.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 6.52.34 PM

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 6.52.25 PM

Whole brain teaching also has students mirror what the teacher is doing in order to associate motions with things such as definitions.  After repeating several times with the teacher the students are then asked to turn to the person next to them at “teach” using the same words and hand movements they just did with the teacher.  When the teacher asks the students to “switch”, they then let their partner “teach”. This process allows them to vocalize and associate motions with what they were just taught, in order to help them be able to retrieve the information later. The posters that are posted also help remind the students what this process looks like.

This picture is just a section of a reference wall. In this section there is a word wall IMG_3221with our “word of the week”. Every week a new word was introduced and the students used it in various ways during their morning work and during writing. The words stayed up so that they were able to reference the spelling. This picture also shows a poster of descriptive words. The students were strongly encouraged not to use words like “big” or “nice” to describe things in their writing. This poster was a good reference for them to use when they struggled to find alternatives.

IMG_0750Here are reminders of what the schedule and goals are for that day. Though most of the schedule stays the same, the students’ specials change daily and the chart on the left allows it to change. The schedule not only shows the order of subjects, but also the time in digital and analog since time is something learned in 1st and 2nd grade. On the right hand side there is a display of “student friendly” common core goals that are being taught that day. As a class we review what our goal is before each lesson to help students internalize what they need to learn.


Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 10.41.30 PMScreen Shot 2015-10-14 at 10.42.15 PM

Class Dojo is something that was used school wide when I taught 1st/2nd grade. This online program allows teachers to keep track of both positive and negative points for each student. You are able to choose specifically what skills you would like to encourage in order to earn points, as well as discouraged behaviors. This program also gave real-time feedback and messaging to parents which increase communication.

IMG_3227In order to encourage positive behavior in my classroom I created a token system to go along with Class Dojo. At the end of the day each student would receive one token for each positive Dojo Point they received. They then got to choose what bucket they wanted their tokens to be in for the raffle I drew at the end of each week. Students got to choose homework pass, bean bag chair, pick a prize, lunch with the teacher, or a seat cushion.

Social Learning


My desks were always set up in groups in order to encourage discussion, group work, and sharing ideas.

IMG_0119I also had the opportunity to work in a school district that was so small, pre-k through 12th grade were in the same building. I took advantage of this and provided students opportunities to read and do projects with older students. In this picture they are taking turns reading a book of their choice. This allows them to hear expression and fluency in the older student’s reading and then try to “mimic” that themselves.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 6.52.25 PMThe “Teach” portion of the Whole Brain Teaching I mentioned in Cognitivism is also an example of socialism. Students are given the opportunity to teach one another the new material that is learned.

These are only a few examples of the different learning theories that were found in my classrooms. There are so many opportunities to be able to provide access to all three of these learning theories in any classroom.

The Finish Line and Classroom Design

Picture by jayneandd available under CC BY 2.0

Picture by jayneandd available under CC BY 2.0

Throughout this course we have talked a lot about looking at education from a new perspective. We have looked at TPACK, UDL, PLN, and the works of Gee (2013). Thomas L. Friedman (2013) has  another opinion about the direction education. In his article “It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q.” , Friedman states that a high I.Q. is no longer enough to successfully move up in the world, but you also need Passion Quotient (P.Q) and Curiosity Quotient (C.Q).  

Passion and Curiosity are two traits that can really drive someone to do well in any environment. Our last assignment asked us to use a program called SketchUp to create our dream classroom. I kept my own passion and curiosity in mind throughout my classroom design process.


Teaching is definitely something I am passionate about. I don’t think this is a trait that any good teacher doesn’t have.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 8.39.34 PM

One thing I want my students to be is comfortable. Many of my student come from homes that are unsafe, so I want students to feel more “at home” and be able to relax. I made sure to include a variety of options for students to work. I have tables, soft benches, pillows, tall standing tables, and lap desks. Its hard to focus on what you’re learning, when all you can think about is how uncomfortable you are.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 8.52.23 PM

I have also realized, even more than before, that collaboration is huge. Not only should students be discussing their thoughts and ideas with one another, but they also need to begin to extend their Personal Learning Network. In order to accommodate all learners (UDL), I have made sure to design a space that encourages collaboration and the use of technology. The white hexagon tables have a dry erase surface and actually separate at the lines which allows them to be rearranged. The red table in the back holds the laptops (though they are encouraged to be moved if needed), and the extended “arms” allow more than one person to sit around one computer. If you removed the laptops you could also have a large group discussion here. The laptops are not the only thing that allow the student access to their PLN, there are also ipads for each of them in their own cubby box along the “back” of the room.


Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 11.47.08 PMAfter learning about maker spaces and genius hour, I am completely sold on letting curiosity drive students learning. I wanted to make sure that I gave my students the space and resources to be able to explore their curiosity. Once the students figure out what direction they would like to go, they need to find the right tools to get them there. This is where TPACK comes into play. In my classroom students have access to the tool or technology that will help them feed their curiosity. They may be using the internet to research, or using apps on the ipads to create a movie.I have also included red storage bins under the bench in the back that are filled with supplies. I think one of my favorite pieces in this classroom is the Lego table. This may seem like something students might do during inside recess, but the possibilities here are endless.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 11.56.23 PM

In the last six weeks I have learned an overwhelming amount of material. The MAET program at MSU has really forced me to think outside of my comfort zone in order for me to become a better teacher. Though it has been a lot of work, I think it has all been worth it. I can’t wait to put all of this new information to practice this fall, and to pass it along to my co-workers.

Using My PLN….The Final Product !

Over the past few weeks I have taken on the challenge to learn something new using only online “How to” forums . As you may have read in a previous blog post, I had to use my Personal Learning Network (PLN) to learn how to make cornhole boards. After searching, I was able to narrow my resources down and use what was most helpful. I can proudly say that this process has been a complete success!!


Though my cornhole boards turned out just how I imagined them, I did run into some problems as I worked my way through the Cornhole-How-to website. One of the biggest issues I ran into was not having some of the tools that were needed. I ended IMG_2869up borrowing a jigsaw and an attachment that was the perfect size for cutting the hole. I thought the drill attachment would be better than the suggested jigsaw. It turns out I was wrong. Since I had this tool I chose not to purchase a compass to draw the circle. However, I still needed this to draw curved lines on the legs to guide my jigsaw. I took this opportunity to be resourceful. I found a Gatorade bottle in the recycling bin that was the perfect size, and used this as a stencil. Recycling at its best! Later, I ran into yet another issue with this so-called upgrade. While using it to cut the holes I realized the drill I was using wasn’t capable of handling the attachment. I had to stop several times to recharge my drill and eventually just gave up. I decided to go back to the websites original tool, the jigsaw.

IMG_2903The only other issue I ran into were the additions that I wanted to add to my boards; the sacred MSU logos! The directions on this website told me to purchase any logos that I wanted on the boards, but I couldn’t seem to find what I was looking for. Instead, I printed off the logos, had them enlarged on cardstock, and used an exacto knife to cut out the designs to make my own stencils. Although I covered the area around the stencils, a little spray paint blew under them slightly. I had some touching up to do, but I decided to leave some of the “frosted” look.

After going through this process I realized that no matter how many resources you use, you’re almost always going to run into some roadblocks. Rather than blaming the website and giving up, I realized that I needed to make adjustments in order for the directions to work for me. This also made me realize that students may need to do the same thing. When giving an assignment or activity I may suggest tools and steps, but students might be able to find a better way that works for them. I need to be able to accept the changes that they make. It doesn’t matter how they reach their goal, as long as they reach it!

Even with the road bumps I crossed throughout this project, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I actually found myself avoiding other assignments to work on this one. Knowing how driven I was, simply because I got to choose the project, makes me realize how right Gee (2013) was when he says “people work best when they care about what they are doing” (p.13). I now see how much giving students a choice can really affect their motivation to learn. This will be something I plan to do more often in my classroom.  I also realize that encouraging students to use their PLN to learn something new is valuable. Though it took some digging, I was able to find the resources necessary to learn what I needed to. Students need to be given the opportunity to learn how to reach out to other sources when the answer isn’t right in front of you. The possibilities are endless when you’re able to tap into your Personal Learning Network.
This video that shows how far I’ve come from having only pieces of wood and a pile of tools.

Works Cited

Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Innovation as a Learning Ethic…Not so wicked anymore!

The words “wicked” and “problem” standing alone are not usually considered to be “good” things. Put these two words together, and you have something that is indestructible. Wicked Problems are unsolvable. “Solutions” to problems that are labeled wicked only lead to more problems. The only thing we can do to “solve” these problems is come up with a proposed idea that will lead to the least amount of problems.

Created on ABCya.com

Created on ABCya.com

One of these wicked problems evolves when looking at innovation as a learning ethic. My group (myself, Alan and Dave) have come up with a proposed idea to “solve” this wicked problem. In my first blogpost regarding this problem we decided to use Genius Hour,  Google’s 20% Time, or what we are calling “Tinker Time”, to help teachers integrate innovation into the classroom. Teachers are tied down with so many standards, curriculums and other school requirements, that it is hard to change the pedagogy in such a way that includes everything. By using Genius Hour teachers only take up one hour a week to start, which hopefully leads to more innovation in the classroom. In order to address this ‘wicked problem’ we need to begin to shift ‘what we think’ and ‘how we think’. Until we make this “Mind” (Gee, 2013 p.165) shift, we do not have the capacity to shift what we do.

Though we are sticking to the idea of Genius Hour to help us integrate innovation, after a round table discussion with other groups, we decided we needed to also address assessment. We decided that with the integration of Tinker Time we would leave out any formal assessment. Teachers will take a step back and students will track their own learning using a journal. Gojak (2013), Wiggins (1990) and Looney (2009) all argue that traditional testing can undermine innovative thinking. Teaching for test performance is not productive for student success or motivation.

TPACK is making yet another appearance, however, this time the student is in charge of finding the “sweet spot” between Technology, Pedagogy, and Content. Tinker time has the student start with a driving question, therefore choosing what they want to learn (content). They will also choose how to “teach” themselves or find the answer to their driving question (Pedagogy), while also deciding what Technology to use as a tool.

Has our group solved the unsolvable!? Most likely not. However, I think that we are at least headed in the right direction. We are making our “Minds” shift to a new way of learning. Think about how many innovative improvements that have been made in just the last ten years. If we don’t start to change our teaching with the world around us, we are going to be left in the dust.

Take a look at our groups entire “solution” to innovation as a learning ethic on our Blendspace. 

Works Cited

Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gojak, L. M. (2013, November 4). Are We Obsessed with Assessment? Retrieved from www.nctm.org/News-and-Calendar/Messages-from-the-President/Archive/Linda-M_-Gojak/Are-We-Obsessed-with-Assessment/

Wiggins, G. (1990). The case for authentic assessment. ERIC digest Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/62998948?accountid=12598

Looney, J. W. (2009), “Assessment and Innovation in Education”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 24, OECD Publishing, Paris.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/222814543073

Community of Learning Survey: How Are We Using Technology and How Can We Improve?

Using technology in the classroom is becoming common practice in the 21st century. However, the ways we are using technology, and how we learn to use it are what seems to vary from classroom to classroom. I was asked to send out a survey to my community of learning to find out how technology is being used, and how they would like to learn more. After sending my survey to 22 teachers, aides, and specials teachers, grades pre-k to 12th grade, I received a response from seven of those people (32%).

techlearninginterest After reviewing the survey results I found:

  •  Of the technologies available, there were varying degrees of comfortability in using them.
  • 100% of those surveyed agreed that they could be more effective when using technology in the classroom.
  • Most agreed to learning more!!
  • Professional development needs to be more individualized.

I think one of the most important things that I realized was that even though we all use technology, we can all agree that there’s room for improvement. The interest level is there, we just need to have the correct professional development to get us from using technology, to using it effectively. Gee (2013) talks about how “higher ups” make decisions and plan for everyone, which sometimes “freezes” these procedures; it seems like this is what they have done to professional development. Since we have always had someone come in an “teach” or lecture us on new topics, this is how we should go about teaching new technology.

After learning about the importance of TPACK, UDL, and PLN in the classroom, why are we not using these methods to teach our teachers? Just because we are adults, does not mean we all learn the same boring way we were taught. Layton (2015) found that billions of dollars are being wasted on teacher professional development because teachers are taking away what is intended. Based on my results, I don’t think this is because we are not interested in becoming better teachers. I think that we need to change the way professional development is done. Technology is not going away, therefore we need to find more effective ways to teach it to our teachers.

Works Cited

Gee, J. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Layton, L. (2015, August 4). Study: Billions of dollars in annual teacher training is largely a waste. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/study-billions-of-dollars-in-annual-teacher-training-is-largely-a-waste/2015/08/03/c4e1f322-39ff-11e5-9c2d-ed991d848c48_story.html?utm_source=Sue’s daily email, Aug. 4&utm_campaign=Daily_4-24-15&utm_medium=e

Wicked Problems and Tinker Times


Picture by Denise Krebs available under CC by 2.0

In the last couple of weeks we have been looking at “wicked problems” and how we propose to “fix” them. Our group (Alan and David) has specifically focused on how we can make innovation part of the learning ethic. “Innovation springs from the freedom to connect ideas in new ways”. (New Media Consortium, 2013, p2) One of the hardest things for teachers to do is give students freedom within their learning. Educators have so much required content to cover that we feel restricted to stick with mandatory material. Our group is proposing that educators implement a “Genius Hour” or in what we are calling “Tinker Time”. This allows students to engage themselves in a learning topic of their choice. According to Gee (2013), “Humans think and act well only when they care about what they are doing” (p.13).  Allowing students to choose the topic they would like to explore and build on will essentially motivate them to learn here and in other required topics.

Picture by Denise Krebs available under CC by 2.0

Picture by Denise Krebs available under CC by 2.0

We have created a Blendspace and compiled the thoughts and discussions that we have had so far. We will continue to use our “Minds”, which is what Gee (2013) considers to be the plugging of more than one mind with the right tools together, and will further develop our proposal to solve making innovation part of a learning ethic.

Works Cited

New Media Consortium (2013). The Horizon Project. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/horizon-project

Gee, J. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Improving My Information Diet

Brain Food

Picture by Thomas Haynie available under CC BY 2.0

Reading James Paul Gee’s book The Anti-Education Era definitely opened my mind to how we learn.  Gee talks about how humans are meant to be a very intelligent species. However, many of us take the “stupid” route. We do this by sticking to what we know and not allowing ourselves to use our “Minds”. Gee (2013) states that a Mind with a capital “M” is what you get when you plug more than one mind together with tools in the right way. After reading this, I quickly began to realize that I was not exactly taking the “smart” route to gaining new information.

One of the main ways Gee suggests using Minds is through the use of an affinity space. An affinity space is where “multiple tools, different types of people, and diverse skill sets are networked in ways that make everyone smarter and make the space itself a form of emergent intelligence” (Gee, p. 174). The only two affinity spaces I was really utilizing were Facebook and Twitter. However, I was not using them to effectively network in a professional light only personal. Apparently my info-diet is horrible; I am currently feeding on information “junk food” rather than healthy, diverse, valuable information that would influence me to better myself as a teacher.

Image by Frank Paynter available under CC BY-SA 2.0

Image by Frank Paynter available under CC BY-SA 2.0

Eli Pariser  mentions in his Ted Talks presentation that the internet is filled with algorithms that filter what you see based on what you already look at online. This puts us into what Pariser (2011) calls “Filter-Bubbles”, which keep us from seeing things that are considered to be in a zone of discomfort. Since I seem to spend a lot of time using the Internet for personal reasons, I think that it is time to seek a more professional route while also looking at information that will break my professional boundaries. One way I plan to start breaking my filter bubble is by following a few new Twitter feeds. According to Gee, “It is crucial to the empirical game to pool as many diverse sources of information and viewpoints as we can” (2013). If I stay within the bubble I have already acquired, I will not be reaching out of my comfort zone nor widening my experiences.

The first feed I started to follow was @MindshiftKQED. This Twitter account is based out of San Francisco and posts articles and ideas that surround the future of learning. I think the Twitter handle for this feed really says what I’m looking for; I need to “mind shift” in order to integrate more effective technology based learning.  I need to be more thoughtful about what technology I am using in order to make sure it is being used most effectively. In addition, I want new technologies to be brought to my attention so I don’t get “stuck in a rut” and can shift to new possibilities.

Picture by DonkeyHotey available under CC BY 2.0

Picture by DonkeyHotey available under CC BY 2.0

I also decided to follow the Michigan Department of Education. I chose to follow this feed because I feel a bit disconnected from the political aspect of teaching. It is important for me, as an educator, to keep up with this information because educational policy is constantly being changed and updated. I need to know what is up and coming and what is currently being implemented in order to fulfill my responsibilities as an educator.  Since educational policy is done at both a state and national level, I decided to follow the US Department of Education as well.

Though this is only the start of expanding my “Mind”, I think using Twitter, one of the tools I was already familiar with, is a nice stepping stone to something more. I must admit, the more I looked for feeds to follow, the more difficult it was to choose only three (I think I followed 7). My MAET course discussions, along with required readings, are allowing me to realize how much I have been limiting myself to grow as a learner. I plan to continue expanding my information diet passed these three Twitter feeds, and trying new “fruit”.

Works Cited

Gee, J. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Pariser, E. (2011, March). Eli Pariser: Beware Online “Filter Bubbles” [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles

Personal Learning Network Project Update

I must say, I am pretty excited about how my Personal Learning Network (PLN) project is turning out. I started out this project thinking I was going to use three different PLN resources, but became really overwhelmed trying to use all of them. Though they were all giving directions on how to build a cornhole set, they provided too many different materials and tips to keep track. So, I decided to just focus on one site, which was Cornhole-How-To. This website listed all of the materials in one place and gave step-by-step directions with pictures. Though watching “A Slice of Wood” was helpful at the beginning, it was not easy to follow along with throughout  the process. Cornhole-How-To was all laid out in front of me so I could use it at my own pace; rather than having to constantly stop and rewind a video.
CornholeBefore starting this project, I knew very little about using power tools. I actually had to reach out to a different network in order to borrow a few of the tools needed. Since I was unfamiliar with a jigsaw, I watched a quick tutorial on the basics of using one. This gave me some basic tips that were very helpful. I will say, I was a bit timid to use some of these materials, mostly because I didn’t want to mess up! This reminded me a lot of some of my students, they tend to freeze and don’t want to try because they are afraid of failure. I decided to explore my new tools on some scrap wood before diving into the real deal. This helped build my confidence, and by the end I didn’t think twice about what I was doing.

Thinking about the process of this project, it reminds me a lot of the TPACK model. I started out with a goal in mind (cornhole set), then had to figure out how I was going to teach myself (PLN). Once I had the content and pedagogy, I just needed to figure out how to use the tools (technology) effectively. Now all I have to do is continue this learning process to make all of the finishing touches. I still need to use wood filler, sand, and paint. I am looking forward to seeing how this all turns out!   Cornhole

How To Create Your Own Circuit Maze

In the past 2 weeks the MAET year 1 cohort has been preparing their own Maker Faire. We started by grouping up and choosing what we were going to present; we decided on a Circuit Maze. Then we had to figure out how to build our Circuit Maze which needed to be fully functional. This was not quite as easy as it sounds. We were given no directions on how or what to build, but this is what made it a great experience! We had to tap into our Personal Learning Network to see if we could gather any directions or helpful hints. Once we were all ready to present, we were also in charge of advertising our Maker Faire so that people would actually come! We used a variety of tools to help us, such as; Smore, Twitter, and Facebook.

MSU !!

MSU !!

Rather than having you go through this entire process yourself, I have provided a “How to” on how to create your own circuit maze.


Most of these materials were found at a craft store,  Radioshack, or hardware store

  • Thick metal wire that conducts electricity (we used copper and aluminum)IMG_2192
  • cardboard
  • electrical tape
  • Duct or Gorilla Tape
  • exacto knife
  • glue or spray glue
  • scissors
  • 9 volt battery
  • alligator clipped wire (2)
  • buzzer (Voltage range 3-28 VDC)
  • Copper/soldering tape

Helpful hint Test all of your materials BEFORE putting them together “permanently”.

Step 1:

Cut 2 pieces of cardboard to desired size. Then glue the two pieces of cardboard together. If you use regular Elmer’s Glue, you might have to wait until it dries before continuing. You could probably get away without this step, but we decided to do this to reinforce stability.

Step 2:

After testing your wire’s conductivity, bend about 1.5 inches on one end of your wire to a 90 degree angle. Then push this end through one side of your cardboard.

Step 3:

Now you are free to create the maze by bending the wire any way you please. If you need to, you can remove the wire from the cardboard while you are bending it, but I found it easier to gauge how much wire I had to work with. Remember to leave about 2 inches on the other end of your wire to push through the cardboard at the end.

Step 4:

Push the end of your maze through the cardboard and bend this toward the outside end of your cardboard.

Step 5:

Now cut a piece of copper tape that is the length of the distance between the 2nd hole to 1 inch past the board. Start one end of the tape underneath the bent wire to the edge of the cardboard and wrap it around to the top.


Step 6:

Secure both ends of your wire to the cardboard with Duct or Gorilla Tape. Make sure the wire is pressed firmly to the copper tape.


Step 7:

Use another piece of wire to create a wand to your desired size. Then bend a loop around your maze wire.  Note: the smaller the loop, the harder your maze will be.


Step 8:

Connect one end of an alligator clip to your wand handle and the other end to the negative terminal of the 9 volt battery.


Step 9:

Using the electrical tape, tape the black wire from the buzzer to the copper tape. Then use an alligator clip to connect the positive terminal on the battery to the red wire on the buzzer.


When your wand touches your maze the buzzer should sound!! If nothing happens check out the helpful hints below!

Helpful Hints:

  • Make sure to buy a buzzer with the correct voltage allowance (listed in materials).
  • If your buzzer doesn’t sound, try switching the alligator clips on the battery.
  • Taping where your alligator clip is attached to your wand helps keep the wand from spinning.
  • Test your wire before making your maze !! It might look like copper, but it could just be painted that color.

Final Results!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.